July 12, 2016
Everyone knows that using tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, or chewing tobacco) is bad for your body. But did you know that tobacco can help cause some serious problems with your dental health? Here are seven surprising effects of tobacco on your teeth and gums.
- Your teeth will get stained yellow. Probably the biggest cosmetic change after smoking or chewing tobacco over a long time is the loss of whiteness on your teeth. In healthy teeth, the enamel is translucent but white. A smile full of bright, white teeth is something everyone loves to see. But smoking or chewing can slowly add a sickly yellow color to your teeth. While the teeth whitening treatment at our Boone, NC dental office can help a lot, you should be prepared to watch your teeth eventually look yellow and dingy. The same is true of any dental work you might have. Smoking will also stain dental bridges, dental implant restorations, and dentures.
- You have an increased risk of gum disease, and treatments will be less effective. Gum disease (also called periodontal disease) is caused by the same harmful bacteria behind tooth decay. When this bacteria lives on your gums, it irritates the gum tissue to create a condition called gingivitis. If left untreated, the bacteria can actually infect your gums, destroy jawbone, and eventually cause your teeth to fall out. People who use cigarettes, cigars, or smokeless tobacco are at a much higher risk for getting gum disease. Tobacco irritates gums, which can cause your gums to pull away from teeth and create pockets. Food particles get trapped in those pockets, which is just what bacteria love to eat. Worse, gum disease treatments like root planing and scaling tend to be less effective with smokers.
- Smoking compromises your immune system, making gum disease and root canals more likely. The tar and chemicals in tobacco products can interfere with your immune system, making it harder to fight off colds and infections. This means you are more likely to get gum disease and similar infections. In fact, when a bacterial infection spreads to the pulp inside of your teeth, the only way to save them is through root canal therapy. That means people who smoke or chew tobacco are going to face more root canals than people who do not.
- Your enamel can get worn down by grit and sand inside chewing tobacco and cigars. Tobacco products like cigars and chew often have much more than just tobacco leaves in them. Because tobacco is grown in the soil, products that have tobacco leaves in them can also contain a small amount of sand and similar grit in them. The amount is so small that you’ll probably never notice them. But even though your enamel is very tough, much like glass, it can be scraped and scratched by tiny particles of grit. Over time, this wears down your enamel and increases your sensitivity to heat and cold.
- You have a higher risk of oral cancer in your gums, which can cause your teeth to fall out. The link between tobacco use and cancer is completely understood and accepted these days. While lung cancer is a major concern for smokers, the smoke (and smokeless tobacco) can also help cause cancer in your cheeks, lips, and gums. When cancerous tumors start to grow in your gums, they can put you at a much higher risk of having teeth fall out.
- Slow healing after oral surgery. Sometimes, oral surgery is the only way to help fix the problems in your teeth and smile. A severely infected tooth might need to be extracted and replaced with a dental implant, or your gums might need a gum graft to help cover up your teeth properly. This is still surgery, however, and it requires some surgical incisions and sometimes sutures to help the gums heal. Using tobacco affects your whole body, reducing its ability to heal itself and fight infection. And that means your gums and mouth will heal much more slowly after oral surgery, and your risk of having an infection related to the surgery is higher.
- More plaque and tartar from reduced saliva flow. Whether you smoke or use smokeless products like chewing tobacco, both can interfere with your mouth’s ability to generate saliva normally. Researchers have linked this decreased saliva flow to an increase in getting plaque and tartar on your teeth, increasing your risk of gum disease (again!) as well as tooth decay.